Tag Archives: Cringe Humor

R.I.P. Mike DeStefano

God damn it, it never ends.

Mike DeStefano, a NYC area comic whose career had finally started to explode, passed away last night after suffering a heart attack. His history of substance abuse was a central part of his act, and it was no secret that he was diagnosed with AIDS years ago. Yet despite those health obstacles and the enormous crapshoot of forging a career, Mike finally put it all together last year.

Video: Mike DeStefano on his resume. “I am a stand up comic. Before that, I was a drug counselor. Before that, I was a drug addict. Before that, I was 12…”

In 2010, he lit up the stage at the auditions for Last Comic Standing and blazed his way through the competition, making the finals. Although he didn’t win (he placed fourth), the visibility expanded his following, and his take-no-prisoners style of cringe humor made him a clear audience favorite. He parlayed that into a Comedy Central special and a show called Drugs, Disease and Death: A Comedy in which he discussed his heroin addiction, being HIV positive and the death of his wife. A new version of that show titled A Cherry Tree In The Bronx was set to open this Wednesday night.

Mike released an album last year, OK Karma, which will now be a testament to his truly original comic voice. I listed it in my top ten in what was a very prolific year for comedy releases.

In recovery for eleven years and counting, Mike took the accomplishment seriously. Now using comedy as a tool, he made working with and helping other recovering addicts a priority with the same diligence that he had when he was a drug counselor (check out Recovery Comedy ).

Many friends and fans are leaving comments at his Facebook page, at Stand Up! Records, and Punchline Magazine  (who conducted this funny and telling interview with him last year); I’m sure someone will open up his website for that as well. Patrick Milligan of Cringe Humor posted an amazing testimonial to his friend.

Mike with Mark Maron from a December interview on Maron’s WTF podcast.

Wrong Side Of The Bed – Mike’s webfilm series on Atom.com.

My condolences to his family and friends, and like “hundreds of people who think (he) is great“, I will miss him terribly.

R.I.P., Mike. Say hello to Greg for us.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #3-2-1

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

Maybe the most amazing thing about my list – and I didn’t realize what was happening until after I locked everything down – is that nine of the top ten were debut albums. That is partially due to the likelihood that an established seller will more likely get the financial backing for a DVD project. But it also signals the fact that a group of brilliant writers and performers (many of whom have been staff writers for successful and established shows and performers) are getting an opportunity to get their unique voices out there. 

It’s heartbreaking to realize how many great comic minds we’ve lost in recent years, but it’s reassuring to know that so many have picked up the torch.

Finalizing a top ten was tough, determining the top three was exasperating.

But here we go…

***

#03: Kyle Kinane, DEATH OF THE PARTY

Great imagery and material; immediately captivating with an incredibly original style. Sure, he looks and sounds disheveled, but this album straddles the line between stream of consciousness riffing and nuggets of cosmic gold. I will always marvel at the way Mitch Hedberg’s brain worked for puns and one-liners; and I think Kinane’s storytelling presentation is on that same level of greatness.  (A Special Thing Records)

***

#02: Anthony Jeselnik, SHAKESPEARE

He might be the smartest writer out there; if you don’t believe it just ask him! Deliberate slow pacing, where he clearly enunciates every word to squeeze every nuance, silence and twist for maximum effect. You have to be very skillful to present yourself as an arrogant know-it-all constantly baiting the audience, but when your CD is one perfectly constructed joke after another, you are acquitted. (Comedy Central Records)

***

#01: Auggie Smith, SMELL THE THUNDER

A great combination of social exasperation, political/religious commentary and brilliant writing. Smith’s album is a blend of Patton Oswalt, Dave Attell, Lewis Black, Bill Hicks and Doug Stanhope – basically everything I like about standup comedy. Great pacing, exceptional delivery and inflection, and even his throw-away lines are hilarious. In a year when many strong comedy albums were released, this was the cream of the crop. (Rooftop Comedy)

***

Next week: The Best Comedy DVDs of 2010.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #7-6-5-4

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

***

#07: Bill Burr, LET IT GO

Ok, probably cheating a wee bit here, because Burr does have a DVD of this show and there were a couple of extra jokes on it, but the two are very close in content. (I’m an equal opportunity cheater, as you’ll see when the DVD list is posted.) But no matter where this is listed, it’s great. Burr just keeps getting better every year, baring his soul in his shows and flushing out his brain, unfiltered, on his weekly podcasts. He’s the guy like you and I who is just too fucking tired of putting up with the lack of common courtesy, the ineptitude of customer service and the complete banality of what passes for modern society. The odd thing is that a lesser comic would go down in flames trying to work these topics, but Burr is so passionate and magnetic that he sells every moment. (Image Entertainment)

***

#06: Joe DeRosa, THE DEPRESSION AUCTION

A comedian – and an album – that deserves to be far better known. Both self-deprecating and intolerant of others, Joe’s aptly named collection of rants places him as the man who just doesn’t fit, whether it’s ineptitude at sports, being taken seriously as a person or just trying to justify his own anger at boorish people and bad cable before realizing that it would probably mean more if he wasn’t observing this from the fetal position. He tees off on hecklers, reality stars and himself and caps it all off with the tale of performing for fans of The Insane Clown Posse. I don’t know what’s stranger – that the Juggalos invited him to perform and he accepted…or that afterwards they invited him back again . (Comedy Central Records)

***

#05: Myq Kaplan, VEGAN MIND MELD

A master of language, one of the best comic wordsmiths that I have heard in a long time. With his intellect, he could leave most of the audience in the dust and be the ultimate nerd comic playing to tiny Mensa gatherings. But fortunately he has a good dose of silly in his DNA and he loves puns. There are so many jokes layered within jokes that it will take multiple listens to shake every one of them loose. Incredible with call backs – if you saw him on Last Comic Standing you watched him weave them into every set. And for the icing on the cake, he’s a razor-sharp moralist taking society to task on politics and religion, which means he’s leaving you laughing and thinking.  (Live at Comix)

***

#04: Hannibal Buress, MY NAME IS HANNIBAL

Buress redefines casual; unlike comics who start their set with a bang, he’s so laid back that you might wonder if he’s talking in his sleep. But he’s s sneaky bastard. Little jokes start piling up one after another and before you know it, that snowball is hurtling down the hill like an avalanche. And when he does eventually explode with an expletive or a loud voice, it only makes the punch line that much funnier. He has a great knack for making the mundane sound insane, and his absurdist takes are stellar. It’s as if Louis C.K. and Bill Cosby had a love child – he’s got the Cosby pacing and the lunacy of Louie. How could SNL suck so bad if he is writing for them? (Stand Up! Records)

***

The countdown concludes tomorrow with #3, #2 and #1.

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Best Comedy Albums of 2010: #10-9-8

Year End List caveat: I’m splitting comedy albums apart  from comedy DVD projects, so if someone had a DVD that was basically the same as the album, I’m rating it as an album. If someone winds up in the DVD category that doesn’t mean their album wasn’t top ten material…just trying to find some way of being fair. That said, there’s not an item on either of these lists that I don’t think is worth your immediate attention…click to hear clips and judge for yourself!

***

#10: Mike DeStefano, OK KARMA:

What a breakout year for Mike, who lit it up on Last Comic Standing and brought cringe humor to the forefront. Hysterically funny, he also has a personal back story so cathartic and outrageous that it will stop you dead in your tracks. Many comedians have a persona, but I believe this is the melting pot of the real guy bursting through. Irreverent and fearless, I love that he’ll swing for the fences, miss, and then dig in and swing harder because he knows he will get you eventually. (Stand Up! Records)

***

#09: Matt McCarthy, COME CLEAN

Total nutjob, and that’s fine by me. Prone to explosive rants of ridiculous logic as frequently as deceptively subtle comic gold, McCarthy’s debut album still has me laughing months later, especially the closing piece where he answers an Internet survey in reverse. Probably the most unusual opening and closing bits on any comedy album, ever, but both kill …as does most of what’s in between them. (Live at Comix)

***

#08: Sean Kent,  WAITING FOR THE RAPTURE

Kent’s “take no prisoners” attitude is relentless but funny, even bringing a unique take to common targets like Wal-Mart, Glenn Beck, Facebook and religious fanatics. Sure, there are dick jokes and local references and social outrage and little girlie voices, but Kent is willing to go all the way out there to take the mundane and the topical and wring something fresh out of both.  (Uproar Entertainment)

***

The countdown continues Wednesday with #7, #6, #5 and #4.

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Stand Up Wit…The Jim Florentine Roast

Earlier this month, a group of comedians assembled in NYC to roast comic Jim Florentine, an occasion that became a bittersweet experience. The event was originally supposed to feature Greg Giraldo, perhaps the most devastating roaster of our era, whose shocking death numbed the comedy community. The event was then changed to a benefit to raise money for a fund for his three children. When I saw Rich Vos in October he mentioned that he had been tapped to host and I’m sure the loss of his close friend resonated through his nervous preparation for the event.

But comedy is  a tool of release, and it became quickly apparent that nothing was sacred that night. And I’m sure Giraldo and the late Robert Schimmel wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

The array of comics delivered in spades, no balls were left unbroken and a large sum was raised to donate to the Giraldo Children’s Fund (readers who wish to make a donation can do so via Paypal). Comics included Vos, Jim Norton, Otto and George, Reverend Bob Levy, Bonnie McFarlane, Jesse Joyce, Joe Matarese and Don Jamieson, one of Jim’s co-hosts on vH-1’s The Metal Show.

Kudos to Patrick Milligan and Cringe Humor for hosting such a great event and then being generous enough to share the event with the rest of us. Although there are no plans to release the show on DVD at this point, you can still savor a lot of what went down that night. Needless to say, it’s NSFW – even the text could burn a hole in your corporate firewall.

Click here to read a detailed recap of the roast.

Click here to watch selected videos on YouTube.

 Cringe Humor website.



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Stand Up Wit…Rich Vos

File Rich Vos under the “how can Jeff Dunham be so famous but not this guy” category; a veteran club and theatre comic who combines a curmudgeon’s list of grievances with a sharp ability to work the room into the material. Those who have seen Vos rip someone a new one on Tough Crowd, the Cringe Humor shows or Opie and Anthony are well aware of his skill, any doubters will have their concerns laid to rest after hearing  Live In Philly.

Vos is a good enough storyteller that he can float out a couple of topics as frames and chum the water with a couple of prepared jokes, but his true skill is engaging the audience as participants and targets. Sure, some of the bullets are pre-loaded; a good comic will always be ready for a mismatched couple or the drunk who keeps talking long after you tossed them the spotlight. But it’s obvious that Vos lives for that first nibble on the fishing line, and once that bait is taken, he’s ruthless.

Material-wise, there’s no unique ground broken here. Customer service sucks, hotels and airlines suck, certain cities suck and no matter what your religion, race or gender, you probably suck, too. If you want a thumbnail sketch of Live In Philly, look no further than the title of track number six, “People Bother Me“; Vos expounds on being too old and too tired to put up with people’s bullshit anymore. In the process he’s not tiptoeing around gender, race or religion, and by the reaction of the audience, he’s tapping the right vein.

Video Clip: “Live At Gotham

The recording itself is a little thin, although once you jack the volume up it’s consistently listenable. The packaging is simple and direct and thankfully there are no bells and whistles – no funny songs, no extras, no gimmicks. You get the feeling that he just flipped on the recorder one night and let it roll, warts and all, which is very uncommon these days. Maybe that’s not great marketing, but that’s an honest performance you’re getting to hear.  Live In Philly is Rich Vos, stripped down, unfiltered – and it captures his appeal perfectly.

And if you have to ask where the CD was recorded…what hotel do you work at?

Rich Vos website

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Stand Up Wit…Dov Davidoff

Winging it, sorta

Winging it, sorta

Dov Davidoff doesn’t walk out onto the stage in a conventional manner. Tumbling and shuffling in from a side angle, he looks like a guy who’s opened the wrong door but instead of panicking and going back, he  says “what the hell, let’s do this!”. He rambles and paces, makes abrupt turns, stutters and segues in and out of his own material. Generally he comes off like a stoner with comedy Tourettes, a patient on the couch with the audience as psychiatrist.

In lesser hands, it would be annoying as hell. For Davidoff, it’s the perfect character. And most of the time, he nails it.

Last year’s debut album is called The Point Is, after the phrase that he uses to bring you back to the main joke after dancing your brain about like an eggbeater for a couple of minutes. I’ve heard a lot of the same material in his talk show appearances and his Comedy Central special. But I laughed almost as hard as I did the first time I saw the bits because I buy into what he’s doing – a harmless guy who could be the target of his own barbs mocking the idiocy and frustrations he sees in others. And while his stream-of-consciousness delivery might be a bit unorthodox, once you finally get onto his wavelength, it’s easy to enjoy the ride.

Although he’s a very physical comic, you can appreciate the album on its own merits, although I would advise at least seeing a clip or two first just to lock that mental image in your brain. However, I’m not certain how long you want to keep that image up there – just sayin’

Besides being a staple on the club circuit and the late night talk shows, Davidoff is also a good actor; although he’s had minor roles to date, his charisma is undeniable. I hope he lands a few meaty parts, but not at the expense of what is hopefully a bright future making me laugh.

Dov Davidoff’s MySpace page and official website.

A clip from his Comedy Central special.

Dov’s Cringe Humor page.

Davidoff on Jimmy Kimmel

Two crazy people cancel each other out

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